“Following the Spirit:” Discernment Tools for Your Life

Princess small group

How do we hear God’s voice?

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Monday, February 25, 2013, marks our second discernment session of the “Following the Spirit” series at St. Jane House. This evening will focus on how we tune in and hear God’s voice and invitation for our lives. What follows are a few links to resources for discernment that we are offering here for participants and blog readers alike.

These tools include:

Blessings on your journey!

A Discernment Story: Part II

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

When I walked into work that Monday morning, the assistant principal at the school approached me about interviewing for the newly posted teaching position. There were two of us in the Professional Practice School who had been asked to apply — one position. In my heart, I knew I didn’t want the job.

The course load was too much; the job, as posted, was inappropriate for any one educator.   Pre-IB English 9, Comprehensive English 10, and Stage Management were the subjects the teacher was being asked to teach. In my two years at the school, I’d covered all of these courses. Individually, I loved them; combined, they were deadly, in my estimation — or again: a recipe for burnout.

The Stage management course alone meant supervising productions and student work on evenings and weekends at the school. Stage Management was a full time job in a school with an active student body and thriving performance arts classes.  The course spilled over from its allotted time into after school hours involving moving vehicles, rental equipment, construction personnel, and collaboration with other faculty, parents and empowered student leaders.  (In my one year of teaching stage management and taking on this role in after school hours,  I recalled being at the school every day straight for the month of March. I still have vivid memories of looking at my watch at 1am  in the auditorium, while wearing an insulation mask and student graffiti artists painted the back wall of the stage for a rock concert production. It was fun. I was tired. It was late. I didn’t need to sign on for more hours than there were in the day to be a good teacher.) I’d happily teach the  English classes. But these two courses to prep for – combined with the stage management responsibilities, were a no go. I knew my limits.

My cousin Jill’s sage counsel still rang in my ears: “Just interview for the job, Melis. Get the position, before you ask to change it.”  The advice from my elder English and theater teaching cousin, coupled with the priest’s prophetic words at mass at Old Saint Pat’s the day before, (“Ask why you are there. If it’s a not a fit, God will show you an open door.“) gave me a kind of peace in my decision: Yes, I would interview. Yes, I would draw on my experience teaching all the courses. Yes, I would trust that God would show me a way out.

We were building a 17 foot volcano out of chicken wire and paper mache’ that day in the stage management class. I came to school dressed for paint and paper and glue mess, not for interviewing with the faculty and administrative team. I still remember wiping green paint off my jeans when I sat down before my colleagues. I smiled. I was already doing the job they were interviewing me for; the irony and humor were not lost on any of us.

***

My colleague accepted the position about two hours later. I felt relief and a kind of holy gratitude and awe. “What next, God?” I wondered. Surely, I wouldn’t have been given such a strong sign and direct words as that from my dream and the priest, that God would leave me flailing.

Within a week, my full time position at North High for summer school was solidified. I left the seeming  beauty and pristine of a more resourced area of the Twin Cities for north Minneapolis. And my life changed. (The Northside was where I would meet the Vis Sisters after all!)

Epilogue:
I was offered a full time job for the regular school year on my last day teaching summer school at North High. My colleague, who accepted the post we had both interviewed for,  resigned two months into the following school year citing mental health issues. I learned this from our mentor at the Professional Practice School. “Does an ‘I told you so” make you feel better, Melis?” she asked.
“Perhaps vindicated,” I think now.

I thank God for the directions my life has taken,  my journey to north Minneapolis, and the way Spirit has lead me.

Invitation to reflect:
What is your story? How have you arrived in your own particular perch or area of the world? What has inspired your course of action or decision making? How has your heart, mind, and prayer lead you? What sage counsel have you sought in discerning your next best step? How have dreams influenced your journey ? What wise, inspired, pastoral presence or mentorship has influenced, or affirmed your discernment process?

I welcome your words.

A Discernment Story: Listening to Dreams and Preachers

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

I did not want the job I was invited to interview for. I’d been teaching at this particular Twin Cities public high school for almost two years — student teaching one fall,  long-term subbing in the spring, interning full time the following year. It was great. But I was tired. I was all over the map in preparing different curriculum for the different subjects I was asked to teach, and getting burnt out from the late nights and weekends I was at the school stage managing or directing after-school speech and musical productions. It was invigorating and overwhelming. I knew my limits, and while I was happy the administrators wanted me, I knew that no one would benefit from a “not breathing” me. In my humble opinion, whoever took the job that the administrative team had posted was on the fast track for a nervous break down, or a very early retirement.

I had a long weekend to discern my application — my “yes” or “no” to interview. I was en route to Chicago when the invite came to apply and interview. I had just dropped off “Ayana” at her mother’s house. (Ayana, who had just qualified for State Speech and was the first student in the school’s history to make it that far in Speech competitions.) As her speech coach, I was ecstatic, but I was also very ready for a break and enthusiastic to hit the road and enjoy a long weekend away from my job and home. I wanted to relax. I was going to spend time with my cousin in the Windy City, maybe drink a beer or two, unwind in her downtown warehouse loft, and revel in the energy of another space and set of human stories. This is what I wanted to do. But then the call came.

For the next 48 hours, I basically breathed questions around my calling to teach at this school. I inhaled pros, exhaled cons. Details of my last two years in the classroom flooded my brain as information; images of joy and mental exhaustion filled my mind and informed my spirit.

I arrived in Chicago, after 6 hours of road trip weariness in thought and contemplation, with a resounding “NO” on my lips. I shared all of this with my cousin Jill.

She, the elder, wiser, more learned and seasoned English and theater teacher, advised me otherwise. “Just interview for the job, Melis. Get the position before you turn it down, or ask them to change the position.” I appreciated Jill’s advice, I took it in as wise counsel and went to bed for two nights with a greater sense of peace. On my third day, I rose in the morning unnerved by a vivid dream.

It was Sunday morning, and as my cousin and I were getting ready for mass, I relayed the dream.
“I was stuck in a closet. It was dark. I couldn’t find my way out. I didn’t know why I was there. I was searching for a door.

My cousin responded, laughing, “Well, it’s not about this place! We have no closets in our condo.”

She was right. But it occurred to me: “What if it isn’t about my physical space, but where I am professionally? I feel trapped, and I’m looking for a way out?”

We laughed; we dressed and went to church.

I’ll never forget that Sunday. My cousin and I walked into Old St. Pat’s in Chicago, to a packed house, looking for a place to sit, feeling we must be very late. Was it the homily we walked into, or just a long pre-amble to the service, I wondered. The priest was on fire.

“You have to ask yourself why you are here!” Father exclaimed. He invited us to to tune into the gospel and apply its lessons to our current life situations. When you go into work on Monday morning, you are going to ask yourself why you are there. Some of you may recognize it’s not a fit for you, and you are seeking a way out. You have to trust that God will open a door.”

I got goosebumps. Jill nudged me. “I think God is talking to you.”

Indeed.

Can you imagine what happens next?

***

Stay tuned for part two!

What is our baptismal call? Reflections and Invitations

Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ

Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Priest! Prophet! King!

Can you hear these sacred words spoken by the priest as he anoints a babe in baptism? The child writhes as water is poured, oil is placed, and a candle is lit. We are all witness to this ritual as we proclaim: “You are a child of God. We call you by name. You are beloved.”

But holy hannah! What does it mean to be a “priest, prophet and king”? I giggle to myself thinking of the response to this question for a three month old. Every infant is a “ruler” of sorts in his or her new home, right?  But I gasp a bit contemplating what these words of anointing mean when say, you turn 18 or 25 or 40. Priest? Prophet? King? *gulp*

How do we want to honor our baptismal calls? What do they even sound like as we grow, and perhaps feel even further removed from our small, wriggling, wet, baptized-baby selves? Who are we in this church? How are we really called to live? What name has God given us this day? What do our prophetic, kingly, priestly actions look like in this present context?

I can hear Fr. O’Connell’s translation of these three words: “Priest, or model of love for the people. Prophet, or a speaker of truth and justice. King, or humble, servant leader. ” Okay. But what does it mean to live into these words, or up to their fulfillment? This is the rub for me as a Christian and Catholic.

This Sunday, as we celebrate Christ’s baptism, we are reminded of our own baptisms and invited to reflect on our calls to live and love and be on this earth. How do we want to honor our baptismal calls? What do they even sound like as we grow, and perhaps feel even further removed from our small, wriggling, wet, baptized-baby selves? Who are we in this church? How are we really called to live? What name has God given us this day? What do our prophetic, kingly, priestly actions look like in this present context?

HELP!

On Monday, January 28, 2013, Sr. Katherine Mullin, Vis alumna Meagan McLaughlin and I start our spring semester offering of the “Following the Spirit: Leading a Discerning Life” series at St. Jane House. In this discernment course, we create the opportunity for women and men of all ages and walks of life to reflect on how they are called by God — and we offer space to unpack our baptismal blessings within the context of a small group of fellow discerners.

Does this discernment opportunity speak to you this weekend of baptismal celebration and reflection? Perhaps you have a friend really struggling with their next best step? We invite you to join us – literally, by signing up — and more figuratively,  by holding our cohort in prayer as we journey together  over the next five months.

Will you join us in this process?

Baptismal Blessings! Live + Jesus!

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For more information on the Following the Spirit discernment series, click here.

Seeking Solace in the Incarnation

The Christ Child, from Sandro Botticellis Madonna of the Pomegranate.

The Christ Child, from Sandro Botticelli's "Madonna of the Pomegranate."

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Her job is to stock shelves. Fill in the cans of Starkist and Campbell’s and Ivory dish soap when they get low. Or maybe his gig is to check people out, scan bar-coded grocery items, weigh cabbage and tomatoes, and bag purchased supplies so they travel home gently in their sacks to a wanting family. But on Monday morning in St. Paul, this clerk (was it a woman or a man? or a whole team of cashiers?) was held up at gun point in the grocery store a few blocks from my home. An attempted robbery during this Advent season.

I keep thinking of this person, unsure of their gender, but keenly connected to their humanity. I wonder: was she afraid? Did he tremble? What ran through her mind when the barrel of the gun came up to her face? Where is he now? How is this person fairing?

***

On Friday people all across this nation were tuned into the horror of one gun-related atrocity. As a plugged-in-people, we couldn’t escape the events of December 14, 2012, when a 20 year-old man opened fire and killed 26 children and adults at Sandy Hill Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. We became a more consciously aware vulnerable nation.

This robbery at the local grocery store, just blocks from my home, had nothing in common with the event in Newtown, CT, save that a gun was involved and that the bearers of those guns are now both dead.

Both incidents leave me feeling very vulnerable — wide open, raw, and a bit afraid. I don’t like being afraid.

***

It’s Advent. It’s a season when God is born among us; he takes human form and enters this world as the Christ Child. He becomes one of us: vulnerable, human, small — perhaps, sometimes, too – afraid. A week from today we celebrate Jesus’ birth, recounting his humble entrance as his earthly parents lay him to rest in a manger.

Can you see this baby? His writhing olive-skinned limbs? His swaddled form being snuggled by first-time mother Mary? Can you smell his new sweet scent and imagine all that perfumes the air on this night? How fragrant is the hay, are the sheep and cattle? What stirs in the heart of Joseph as he first sees Jesus? What instincts kick in as this babe is born in the open air, outside the confines of home or assigned health care?

It’s this vulnerability of our God that makes me weep. It’s this incarnation that gives me comfort. I must admit, as a grown woman, as a seeker of love and tranquility, a significant part of me wants to crawl in alongside Christ and snuggle in. I want to lie right next to the babe, Jesus.

As we count down our days to Christmas and hold open our hearts to the miracles and mysteries of this season, it is my prayer that in our vulnerability we recognize the Christ child. It is my hope that in the midst of headlines that might be wreaking havoc on our sense of security as a people, that we seek solace in the God that is right next to us; that we know we are not alone.

Peace be with us.

Christ: The Social Innovator – A Meditation for this Advent Season

Nativity Scene by G Cuffia

Nativity Scene by G Cuffia

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“..and she gave birth to her firstborn son. 3 She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  Luke 2:7

And Advent is upon us! As I make my way into this first week of the holy season, these images return to me: a teenage Mary who is pregnant; a radiant angel with big news; a baffled bachelor named Joseph;  doors closing at the hands of (perhaps unapologetic) innkeepers; a bright star overhead; and a blanketed olive-skinned babe laying atop a bed of straw. And I marvel on the historic narrative informing this Advent season. This is a tale of woe and wonder. It’s a tale of adversity and mystery. It’s a tale of ache and awesomeness. It’s a tale that at its core, lays bare a God who chooses to come to us in this frail human form: as a child born into poverty, squalor and strife. I think, “This Incarnation is something to behold.”

***

On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, Sr. Katherine and I attended a leadership event at Macalester College sponsored by InCommons – Supporting the Courage to Lead. The “Social Innovation Lab” as this event was referred to, was on “Vulnerability as a Resource for Innovation.” Visitation Companion, director of St. Jane house and northside community leader Brian Mogren invited us to attend this event organized by a former Visitation Neighbor, Michael Bischoff.  It was a perfect sort of Advent experience.

As the room of 120 or so participants convened, we were invited to reflect on a time when we had led from a place of vulnerability.

Q: What do we mean by vulnerability?
A: Uncertainty, risk, transparency, and openness to diverse perspectives.

A goal for our gathering was to help shift the dominant view of “judging vulnerability as weakness to valuing vulnerability as a positive resource that takes strength and courage.”

Okay.

My thoughts went immediately to Christ. To Mary. To Joseph. To the cast of characters that make up the gospel story of Jesus’ birth. I thought, “How many of Jesus’ encounters depicted in scripture are about a person who leads from vulnerability?” I took a breathe and then considered, “What is God inviting us to do today and everyday?”

Discerning a step into uncertainty, taking a risk, being transparent in our motivations and situation, and opening ourselves to diverse perspectives is a radical step — one demonstrated to us continually by God’s human son.

There are some very important disclaimers to make about vulnerability. First of all, it’s something we must choose if we are seeking to lead from this place. Discerning a step into uncertainty, taking a risk, being transparent in our motivations and situation, and opening ourselves to diverse perspectives is a radical step — one demonstrated to us continually by God’s human son.  It’s a space of incredible privilege, however, to elect to see vulnerability as a gift and to act on it.  This is my second disclaimer: To have power wielded over us that renders us vulnerable, or to be in deep crisis,  instability or mentally unwell and be invited to lead, is not what the conference leaders meant by their invitation; and I would assert is not what Christ meant through his humble example as servant leader and as the son of God.

***

What is your story of vulnerability? How do you seek to align yourself with the swaddled babe or the teenage mom or the baffled boyfriend-turned-father who are all homeless? How are you choosing uncertainty, risk, transparency and openness this Advent Season?

Blessings as you meditate and respond.

Beyond Ordinary Time: Meeting in Rumi’s Field

"Let us go to the house of the Lord." Artwork: Psalm 122:1 by Okaybabs

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

Happy End of Ordinary Time! On this day after the Feast of Christ the King, after we have made our way through the celebrations that surround Thanksgiving — preparing our turkeys,  transforming and gobbling leftovers, watching enough football, playing our board games, or having enough conversation to keep us tided over till Christmas —  I’m giving thanks for today. I’m celebrating that one particular family member that drove me a bit nuts, the conversations that stretched me in my capacity to be compassionate, and for what now informs my heart, mind and spirit, as I lean toward the next liturgical season in our church. I am inviting a deeper sense of awe, a more inspired capacity to wonder, and opening up the door of my contemplative heart to welcome Advent.

In my prayer and meditation this day, I turn toward poetry. Conscious of the shift in time noted by the liturgical calendar, and what my spirit knows intuitively, I hold images of a God who reigns as Creator of the Universe; I think of a King who leads through service; I usher in the tender images of child resting in straw; I stretch to see that babe grown and nailed to a tree. And I ready my heart through prayerful poetry.

As we turn to this holy season of Incarnation, I invite you to join me in wonder, in awe, in a wordless space of contemplation and deep reverence for our God, our Universe, for Love.  I invite you to join me in this field, as described by 13th Century Sufi poet and mystic, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rumi:

I will meet you there.

I will meet you there.

I will meet you there.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I will meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.*

–Rumi

We are full. We empty ourselves. We soften. We surrender. We stop to rest and become conscious of what Love has invited us to see.

Will you join me in this field? Will you help me walk toward Advent with an ineffable sense of awe, a bewildered sense of joy, a consciousness informed by humility?

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*Coleman Barks on Rumi’s “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing” Hear translator Coleman Barks read this poem and talk about its meaning.

Falling in Love…with God

Holding hands

"I am thankful for...."

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

I love falling in love. I keep thinking and ruminating on this. The falling-in-love-phenomenon that is my life, that is all of our lives, if we are so lucky. That tingly, beside-ourselves school-girl experience that makes you giggle and blush and rejoice in your daily tasks. I know Love. I know God.

These musings bubble up in my prayer as images: the delight in a child’s face, soft skin of chubby cheeks breaking into a smile as I enter the room; the touch of a hand on mine when I gasp during an action scene in the latest 007 film; the connectedness of a faith community circled in prayer reciting the Our Father — all eyes closed, lips moving, palms upright; the sight of a nun driving a mini-van en route to her home town — returning to attend a conference, but shepherding me along the scenic river route to the city where her call originated. In and through all of these, I recognize a benevolent God at work; a Creator firing my own imagination — my heart, mind, spirit.

I’m in love. I know God.

Counting my blessings this day, I keep giving thanks. On facebook, I note the phenomenon that is gratitude list-making  as we count our November days. I am tempted to start a litany of my own: “Ways I know God’s love as we all make our way toward Thanksgiving and the Advent Season.”

Here’s today’s attempt at such a gratitude list:
I am thankful for….Rumi’s poetry. Notes from Claire. Invitations from a Vis Companion. Lunch with Marsha. A joke told by Francois. Crusty homemade bread with butter. Sharp Vermont Cheddar. The wrinkled hand of a sister holding my own in the hospital. A recorded birthday message incorporating a strumming ukulele.

I’m in love. I know God.

***

In the quiet of your day, in your cubicle; as you bow your head before a meal; or before you lay your body down to rest, I invite you to reflect on the ways that you know God’s love. How do you find yourself falling, in deep, abiding, joyful love for your life– for the small ways that you know Love’s invitation to immerse yourself in a moment and say, “Thank you”?

Answering the Door: Some Thoughts on Planning and the Present Moment…

Mary Marg and Demetrius

Who is showing up in our lives? How are we embracing each being at the door?

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“‘And when the door bell rings, you will get your agenda,’ says the Lord.” — Sr. Mary Frances Reis, vhm on the doorbell ministry at the Visitation Monastery north Minneapolis

I’m a planner. I like to plan things. Maybe you are like me? You take stock in naming dates and times and creating agendas that spell out tasks and goals. Perhaps you take comfort in plugging information into your smart phone calendars that informs your next step in the day?  In this world and life that seems so out of our control, perhaps planning provides a bit of security?  As a classroom teacher, we had protocols for such planning where we would think ahead in time and work backwards — identifying outcomes and naming “what success will look like” or “sound like” — and again, planning accordingly for it all.

You know the old adage, though: “if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.” I think, “Indeed!”

I’m reflecting on this compulsion or desire to plan in the face of all that I have been navigating, personally, in the recent months.  I am committed to honoring the lessons that have shown up in birthing our son Xavi, experiencing his brief life, and looking for ways that God has been present in and through it all.  I find the lessons of letting go (of outcomes/ agendas/ life itself) — such a gift — and I recognize that this is part of what the dear Visitation Sisters have been teaching me, us, the world, day in and out for years…(centuries, even, right?)

It’s a lesson about living in the present moment.

The sisters pray the divine office four times a day, and they answer the door.  In and through it all, is their ministry. They are an urban monastery of prayer and presence.

***

When Jane, the ultrasound technician, was moving her sonographic wand over my expanded mid-section at our 21 week ultrasound, I couldn’t go anywhere but that room. When she reported that Xavi’s cerebellum wasn’t intact, that he had fluid around his kidneys, stomach and heart, and that there were several holes in this central blood-pumping organ, I didn’t think I could continue breathing.  I wanted nothing more but to disappear from that room, to dissolve into the air, seep out of that space and avoid the shattering news that my son was not going to live a long life. But in that room were a whole host of prayerful beings, a communion of holy men and women convened in my heart and present in the touch of my husband’s hand.  I kept hearing, “Be still and know that I am God….Be still and know.” Those words were balm as I tried to catch my breathe and be present to life as it was –and is– unfolding.

Life is not all neat and pretty and according to how we want it, eh? It’s not how we plan for it. Enter the embrace of the present moment.

***

Sr. Katherine and MoWhen the Visitation Sisters came up from St. Louis and over from Mendota to found the Minneapolis monastery, they were given this directive about their daily life: to answer the door. Sr. Mary Frances explains this in the following words, “when the door bell rings, you will get your agenda,’ says the Lord.” The sisters pray the divine office four times a day, and they answer the door.  In and through it all, is their ministry. They are an urban monastery of prayer and presence. They, like their co-founders Jane and Francis, are “Living Jesus!” in the ways they are each called to respond to the divine life in their midst. And we are all invited to do the same.

How do we answer our doors? Who is showing up in our lives? How are we embracing the being on the other side of that front-porch-knocking in all of his or her fullness? How do we receive the news born out by each messenger? How do we say, “yes” to the incredible uncertainties that life presents us with from moment to moment? What happens when the present moment makes us want to run and hide?

On this day, I hold these questions prayerfully in my heart. I pray, along with the Visitation Sisters, for the courage to answer the door, to rest in the present moment and be okay with the plans that God has for my life — and for all of ours’. I am glad you are here with me.

Returning to the Blog…

Sr. Mary Margaret - Xavi's Sky

Sr. Mary Margaret, vhm; September 13, 2012*

by Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

“You have to love….It is the reason you are here on Earth.” Louise Erdich, The Painted Drum LP

I have been absent from this blog for a while. I am ready to return. I crave deeply the time that is afforded to me to sit, reflect, be still with experience and emotion and the way that I hear God at work in the hum of all creation.

I stand at a distance from this contemplative process and ache for the joy that arises in my prayerful writing time; I return to my laptop in a celebratory fashion — embracing all that has kept me at bay, and all that compels me to sit down and align my fingers to this keyboard to compose something — hopefully — prayerfully, something honest, true, inspiring.  Yes.

“I do my best to shine a light on the way that God seems to be at work in directing me, all of us, in our vocations. Whether we are religious sisters or lay persons, urban neighbors, or suburban friends, local volunteers, or once -upon-a-time visitors: it is my goal to help inspire community and the way we lean into God’s universal and unique calling for our lives.” — Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, Visitation Companion

My work on these pages centers around contemplative thought and action, highlighting the spiritual lives of the Visitation Sisters of north Minneapolis as I share from own lived experience as a Companion to their monastic order. I pray with the sisters and their lay community; I take note of what feels most compelling to my heart, mind and spirit;  and then I do my best to give voice here to the life-giving nature of their urban community — their mission to “LIVE JESUS!” in the inner city.

"We are all called!"

"We are all called! We are all held by a loving God who 'knows every hair on our head.'"**

Along the way, I do my best to shine a light on the way that God seems to be at work in directing me, all of us, in our vocations. Whether we are religious sisters or lay persons, urban neighbors, or suburban friends, local volunteers, or once -upon-a-time visitors: it is my goal to help inspire community and the way we lean into God’s universal and unique calling for our lives.

Two and half  months ago God’s calling for my own life, however,  sort of tipped me sideways and leveled me almost completely to the ground. On July 24, 2012, I learned that the 21 week old child I was carrying in utero had fetal anomalies that would prevent him from having a very long life beyond my womb. This news has informed my walk, my faith and my calling as a Visitation Companion each and every day since then.

Sr. Mary Margaret baptizes Xavi Jean "Priest, Prophet, King!"

Sr. Mary Margaret baptizes Xavi Jean "Priest, Prophet, King!"*

On September 13, 2012, at 29 weeks gestational age, I gave birth to my son, Xavier Jean Kiemde. His heart beat for one hour beyond my body. Before a sacred post-op room of family and friends, Sr. Mary Margaret McKenzie and Vis Companions Brian Mogren and godparents Fabio and Sonja Anifrani baptized Xavi — honoring his precious time among us, and helping deliver him into the communion of saints as an anointed, “priest, prophet, and king.”  The experience is still fresh with me, and simultaneously stored as emotional images in my heart and mind — that keep me reflecting, and inspire me to celebrate.

We are all called! We are all held radically by a loving God who “knows every hair on our head,” right? And all of us are invited into the waters of baptism where we are anointed and claimed as Servant, Leader, Love-Force, exemplifying Christ’s compassion and community.

In this tender and trying recent experience of life and loss, I know God is at work, helping fashion my heart and inspire further my presence on this earth. I know I am called as a mother, writer, woman, lover of God to give voice to all that has transpired in these past days. I begin here, offering myself and my life to you.

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*photos by Brian Mogren, Visitation Companion
**photo by Salina Caldes, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”